Work Study and Industrial Engineering Terms and Definitions

Work study officers and Industrial engineers daily use various technical terms like Basic time, Standard time, predetermined time, relaxation allowances etc. But due to unavailability of the reference books they find it difficult to explain these work study terms correctly when required. Some of the important terms and definitions related to work study are provided below for your quick reference.

Source: Introduction to Work Study, Edited by George Kanawaty, ILO, Geneva, 1992

Work Study 

Work study is the systematic examination of the methods of carrying on activities so as to improve the effective use of resources and to set up standards of performance for the activities being carried out.

Method Study 

Method study is the systematic recording and critical examination of ways of doing things in order to make improvements.

Work Measurement

Work measurement is the application of techniques designed to establish the time for a qualified worker to carry out a task at a defined rate of working.

Work Sampling

Work sampling is a method of finding the percentage occurrence of a certain activity by statistical sampling and random observations.

Work Content 

The work content of a job or operation is defined as: basic time + relaxation allowance + any allowance for additional work – e.g. that part of contingency allowance which represents work.

Time Study

Time study is a work measurement technique for recording the times of performing a certain specific job or its elements carried out under specified conditions, and for analysing the data so as to obtain the time necessary for an operator to carry it out at a defined rate of performance.

Qualified Worker 

A qualified worker is one who has acquired the skill, knowledge and other attributes to carry out the work in hand to satisfactory standards of quantity, quality and safety.


An element is a distinct part of a specified job selected for convenience of observation, measurement and analysis.

Work Cycle 

A work cycle is a sequence of elements which are required to perform a job or yield a unit of production. The sequence may sometimes include occasional elements.


Rating is the assessment of the worker’s rate of working relative to the observer’s concept of the rate corresponding to standard pace.

Standard Performance

Standard performance is the rate of output which qualified workers will naturally achieve without over-exertion as an average over the working day or shift, provided that they know and adhere to the specified method and provided that they are motivated to apply themselves to their work.

This performance is denoted as 100 on the standard rating and performance scales.

Basic Time 

Basic time is the time for carrying out an element of work at standard rating, i.e.
(Observed time x observed rating)/ Standard rating

Selected Time

The selected time is the time chosen as being representative of a group of times for an element or group of elements. These times may be either observed or basic and should be denoted as selected observed or selected basic time.

Relaxation Allowance 

Relaxation allowance is an addition to the basic time intended to provide the worker with the opportunity to recover from the physiological and psychological effects of carrying out specified work under specified conditions and to allow attention to personal needs. The amount of allowance will depend on the nature of the job.

Standard Time 

Standard time is the total time in which a job should be completed at standard performance.

Predetermined Time

A predetermined time standard is a work measurement technique whereby times established for basic human motions (classified according to the nature of the motion and the conditions under which it is made) are used to build up the time for a job at a defined level of performance.

Work Specifications 

A work specification is a document setting out the details of an operation or job, how it is to be performed, the layout of the workplace, particulars of machines, tools and appliances to be used, and the duties and responsibilities of the worker. The standard time or allowed time assigned to the job is normally included.

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